BOSTON — The Boston Celtics would not be heading to Indiana with a 2-0 lead if not for Terry Rozier.
Boston took a 2-0 lead in its first-round NBA Playoff series thanks to a 99-91 comeback victory over the Pacers at TD Garden in Wednesday’s Game 2.
Rozier didn’t exactly light up the box score, he had four points on 2-for-5 shooting, but he did have six rebounds and six assists. Still, it was a little bit mystifying that with the Celtics down 11, head coach Brad Stevens had Rozier, Marcus Morris, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford on the floor to begin the fourth quarter.
But alas, that group (and Jaylen Brown once he subbed in), got the deficit down to four by the time Kyrie Irving checked back in with 7:35 left. Rozier stayed in the game until the 3:53 mark, and when he left the Celtics had a turned their deficit into a four-point lead.
All told, Rozier finished the tilt with a game-high plus-19. But despite the underwhelming offensive performance, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens elected to stick with Rozier in a big moment. Ultimately it paid off, and after the game Stevens explained why he leaned on the guard so heavily.
“I think that he can — I think sometimes when it’s going like that, you need to be able to score, obviously, but you also need to be able to pick the ball up, make them a little but more uncomfortable, do those types of things,” Stevens said. “And I think Terry obviously does a good job of that. That’s one of the advantages of playing a little bit lesser minutes is you’ve got more energy to do stuff like that. And when we’re at our best, he does a good job of that. And he was huge in that comeback, way more than the stats (show), as you said. I don’t always think the plus/minus tells us the most accurate story, but tonight I think, with him, it’s very accurate.”
Stevens wasn’t alone in lauding the pending free agent’s performance. Kyrie Irving also had plenty of praise for his backcourt mate.
“It’s great. He’s throwing himself into the game,” Irving said. “He’s really, really locked in to the tendencies of the other point guard or whoever he’s guarding. He’s always communicating, he’s always having that high energy — whether it’s for three minutes or whether it’s for eight minutes. I’m glad he stayed out there and Brad made that decision, it takes pressure off of me having to bring the ball up and be the ball-handler every single play down. And that’s a trust that we’ve built over time and over the season.
“You know, he’s a special player, and we want him to go out there and be who he is,” Irving added. “But to see him throw himself into the game the way he has these last two games has been very impressive. It just shows a sense of maturity. I just love that the sacrifice that we’re all making on this team is showing that it’s well worth it.”